Vertigo and The Nun: Sixty years ago two revolutionary films were screened at Cannes which changed world cinema
Vertigo and The Nun were two films which significantly changed the world of cinema and were screened at Competition at the Cannes Film Festival 60 years ago
This day that year at Cannes.
Sixty years ago, Vertigo paved the way for Alfred Hitchcock towards becoming the master of suspense. And the fun fact is that he himself wasn't totally lost on the impact the movie would be able to create in today's world — with contemporary film lovers analyzing it via different perspectives even now.
The movie comes with three poignant masterpieces — its plot, Kim Novak and the impression of vertigo on screen.
An adaptation of the French novel The Living and the Dead by Boileau-Narcejac, Vertigo tags the audience along the journey of Scottie — a police officers who suffers from vertigo post a fall from the roof of a building.
Despite his condition, he agrees to tail Madelaine (Kim Novak), the wife of a friend whose behavior has changed significantly, and over the course of the investigation, he falls in love with her.
This is where Novak's expertise comes in, with what was probably the more significant and iconic role of her career. Incidentally enough, actress Vera Miles was supposed to play the role of Madelaine, but that couldn't happen due to her pregnancy.
At the same time, Hitchcock had plans of molding Novak into a Grace Kelly for this performance, to which she resisted — and this resistance is something she believes made her character look all the stronger onscreen.
And then comes in the masterstroke — the use of dolly zoom, now known as the "Vertigo effect", which had never been used before. Hitchcock used it to create the impression of vertigo. They combined traveling forward with zooming backward (or the other way round), creating a spatial distortion effect. Since then, filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Mathieu Kassovitz have used it too.
Another film which was screened at Cannes that year was the 1966 Jacques Rivette film, The Nun, which managed to raise an outcry from the Catholic Community and was banned by the Information Ministry post that. It was adapted from a novel of the same name by Denis Diderot and showcased actress Anna Karina in its restored version in Cannes Classics. It tells the story of a young girl packed off by force to a convent.
Suzanne Simonin, la Religieuse de Diderot, (Suzanne Simonin, Diderot's Nun) was the original name of the film which caused the stir prior to its release in 1965. Letters condemning the blasphemous nature of the film flooded in to the office of Alain Peyrefitte, the Minister for Information. Soon enough, the doors of all churches and convents were shutting down and the film crew was forced to take refuge in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon to complete the work.
Anna Karina played the role of Suzanne, a young woman sent to the cloisters by her parents, against her will for refusing to take her vows.
Sadly, the Secretary of State for Information banned the film on March 31, 1966 on the account of fear of public disturbances, despite Jacques Rivette denying that his film attacked religion.
"All it does is to question the fundamentals of monastic life in extremely noble and reflective terms," he explained.
When the affair made headlines, the censoring of the movie caused an outcry in artistic circles. "We were called all kinds of names every day," said Anna Karina.
But at the same time, in a virulent letter addressed to André Malraux, the Minister for Culture, Jean-Luc Godard actively defended the work of Rivette, as he had been the director of the Cahiers du Cinéma between 1963 and 1965.
The movie managed to brave all odds and flak and despite the censorship, was finally screened in Competition at the Festival de Cannes a month later in April.